Enraged hope to silence Merkel
Grey vote has younger generations worried
OSTSEEBAD BINZ, Germany, Sept 16, (AFP): Chancellor Angela Merkel may appear to be cruising to a victory in next week’s elections, but her campaign rallies across Germany have been plagued by rowdy protesters who have been jeering, booing and even flinging tomatoes at her.
From the western university town of Heidelberg to the picturesque southern city of Rosenheim and the eastern heartland of Torgau, protesters bearing banners like “Get lost” or “Merkel must go” have sought to drown out the chancellor’s speeches.
The unruly protests have jolted awake a snoozy campaign and tarnished Merkel’s image of invincibility, even though her conservative alliance is commanding a strong double-digit lead in opinion polls.
They are also coming at a time when the anti-immigration and anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has been gaining in the polls in the final stretch before the Sept 24 vote.
All of which has sparked questions about the source of the pent-up anger, particularly since the explosively divisive issue of 2015’s mass refugee arrivals had seemingly faded as the influx eased last year.
“The rage is not fuelled only by Merkel’s refugee policy, but also by powerlessness, from the feeling of not being taken seriously by ‘them up there’,” the weekly magazine Spiegel said.
Timo Lochocki, a political analyst at the German Marshall Fund, said the anger had been “long in the making” because the ruling coalition of Merkel’s “CDU and the Social Democratic Party do next to nothing to appease these voters”.
“Over the last three to four years, the anti-establishment voters, plus disillusioned conservatives fed up with the eurozone rescue and migration deal, are shifting more and more to the right,” he said — and straight into the arms of the AfD.
EU-US data pact faces test:
A pact underpinning billions of dollars of transatlantic data transfers will undergo its first annual review on Monday, with Europe seeking to ensure Washington has lived up to its promises to protect the data of European
Far from being a spontaneous outpouring of fury, the protests are highly organised — and have the AfD’s fingerprints all over them.
Many of the so-called enraged citizens (“Wutbuerger” in German) arrive with AfD posters, reflecting the party’s success in tapping into the outrage over the arrival of more than a million refugees to Germany since 2015.
Ahead of Merkel’s planned rally on Saturday at her constituency’s Baltic Sea resort of Binz, a call has gone out on social media among self-styled “patriots” to mobilise for a protest.
Meanwhile, save for pensioners or invest in young people? It’s one of the most prickly debates across Germany ahead of next week’s election, and with voters over 60 making up the biggest share of the electorate, politicians are pulling out all the stops to charm retirees.
But that is raising fears that in doing so, candidates may be failing to sufficiently invest in the future.
During their sole televised debate, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her main rival Martin Schulz both fell over themselves to pledge that moving up the retirement age to 70 was out of the question.
But during the 90-minute clash, there was hardly a mention of education or the digital economy — both weak links in Germany, where child poverty is also on the rise.
“Ageing is a very good thing ... but of course, there will be repercussions on democracy,” said Wolfgang Gruendinger, a 33-year-old historian and spokesman for a foundation that advocates the rights of younger generations.
The government will always find resources for a pension package, he said, even as it tightens the budget elsewhere.
“There are many policy areas in which... there’ll be no change. It’s almost like we’re putting Germany in
citizens stored on US servers.
Feted as a milestone in transatlantic relations, which had soured after revelations of mass US surveillance four years ago, the EU-US Privacy Shield data pact has been in place for just over a year. a glass jar to preserve it for always, while we are scrimping on the future,” he said.
As the pace of Germany’s ageing accelerates, the chances that policies would be tailor-made for the elderly rise as senior citizens’ voices get louder.
The “grey vote” goes largely to Germany’s two big parties, Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union or Schulz’s Social Democratic Party.
The liberal FDP also manages to get a slice of this vote, a recent study by the DIW economic institute said.
Former president Roman Herzog had already warned in 2008 against a “pensioner democracy” which would be condemned to a slow death.
Warning political parties against “paying disproportionate attention” to the elderly as their numbers rise, Herzog said then that “it could end up in a situation where older generations plunder the younger ones.”
The debate has been revived ahead of the elections on September 24, as those above 60 will make up the biggest proportion — 36.1 percent — of the electorate, according to Germany’s GDV federation of insurers.
Voters under 40 will make up less than a third (29.3 percent), reflecting both Germany’s low birth rates and rising life expectancies.
The disconnect could grow further as the baby boomer generation born after World War II continues to swell the ranks of pensioners.
In a study published at the end of August, Europe’s data agency Eurostat found that Germany invested just 4.2 percent of its gross domestic product in education in 2015, below the European average of 4.9 percent.
In comparison, its deficit-hit neighbour France spent 5.5 percent on education.
Erwin Bender, a recent retiree, said he was fed up with a debate that he says scapegoats older generations.
It was hammered out after the European Union’s top court struck down a previous data transfer pact in 2015 because it allowed US spies excessive access to people’s data, plunging everyday cross-border data transfers into legal limbo. (RTRS)
Ukraine camp fire kills 2:
A fire swept through a children’s camp in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa, killing two girls and leaving a third one missing, authorities said Saturday. Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman expressed condolences and vowed those responsible would face tough punishment.
“It is a great tragedy when children die,” he said in televised remarks.
The fire broke out late Friday in the camp’s wooden two-storey building where children slept in the resort city of Odessa some 440 kms south of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, emergencies services said.
After the blaze was put out three girls aged between 8 and 12 were unaccounted for and later “fragments of two burned children’s bodies were found” during work to clear the debris, a services statement said. The services added the search for a missing child was under way with two more hospitalised.
“There is a glimmer of hope that she got scared and ran away and is in shock now,” said regional police spokesman Ruslan Forostyak, who said the fire alarm did not sound. (AFP)